Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Suon xao chua ngot) features tender pork ribs coated with a mouthwatering savory sweet and sour sauce. Serve it with rice for a very satisfying meal.
Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Suon xao chua ngot)
Sweet and Sour Ribs is in meal rotation of many families in Northern Vietnam. I’m not sure if it’s a popular dish in the South or not since I have never stayed there for an extended amount of time. When I still lived in Vietnam with my family, I often asked my mom to make this mouthwatering dish every week. Yes, the savory sweet and sour sauce makes it so delicious and addictive that no matter how much you have eaten, you still want to eat more.
So each Vietnamese family has their own version of sweet and sour pork ribs. My mom and my uncle and some other families I know often use tomatoes and vinegar as the main ingredients for the sauce. I used to think that was the only way to cook this dish until I was invited to dinner at my friend’s house in Ninh Binh. Her mom used tamarind to make the sweet and sour sauce and it was absolutely delicious. And in case you don’t know, Ninh Binh is the beautiful province where they recently filmed the Kong: Skull Island movie. Today I will share with you the version my mom and uncle make, which is also what I’m most familiar with.
How to cook Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Suon Xao Chua Ngot)
Here are the main ingredients for Vietnamese sweet and sour pork ribs: pork ribs, tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, five spice powder, fish sauce, honey and aromatics.
If you can find meaty ribs with small bones, that is perfect. Ask your butcher to cut them into 2-inch long sections. In Vietnam, a lot of home cooks can cut the ribs themselves using a meat cleaver. I use pork spare ribs since they are easy to find at my local farmers market as well as at U.S. grocery stores.
I like to use apple cider vinegar to create the tanginess/sourness for the sauce because it’s quite mild and pleasantly sour. If my memory is correct, my family in Vietnam usually uses rice vinegar. Most people use sugar as sweetener for the sauce, but I prefer honey which results in a more glistening sauce.
The first step is to blanch the ribs in boiling water to get rid of impurities and pork smell. After that, we sear them until lightly brown. This step helps improve the texture as well as flavors of the ribs. Then we simmer the ribs in the sauce until they are tender and taste delicious. In the traditional method to cook this dish, the last step is done on the stove top. For me, I like to let the ribs simmer in the oven. This way, it doesn’t heat up the kitchen or make the house smell. You can do it either way and the dish will be equally tasty.
The amount of vinegar, honey and fish sauce below is entirely customizable to your liking. During the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, you can taste the sauce and the ribs and adjust seasonings to achieve your preferred balance of saltiness, sweetness and sourness.
I’d love to hear what you think about the dish, so please feel free to leave a comment. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.
- 2.5 lbs meaty pork ribs, cut into 2-inch long sections
- 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 3 tablespoons minced shallots
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 4 small tomatoes (about 10-12 oz)
- 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon honey
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder
- black pepper
- cooking oil
If choosing to finish cooking in the oven, preheat your oven to 400F. If you prefer to use the stove top from start to finish, no need to preheat the oven.
Fill a large pot with boiling water, add ginger and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add ribs, make sure they are all covered in water. Bring the pot back to a boil and continue to boil for a couple of minutes. Then drain the ribs and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
While blanching the ribs, get all other ingredients ready. Mince shallots and garlic, slice tomatoes into thin wedges, measure and have vinegar, honey, fish sauce and oyster sauce ready.
Place an ovenproof saute pan over medium-medium high heat, add some cooking oil. Add ribs in single layer and sear until lightly brown. You may need to work in batches. Set aside.
If there is a lot of oil in the pan, pour it out leaving just enough to lightly coat the bottom. Lower the heat to medium and then add shallot, garlic and sauté for a few seconds until fragrant. Add tomatoes and sauté for a minute or until tomatoes start releasing juice.
Add apple cider vinegar, honey, water, fish sauce, oyster sauce and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Increase heat to medium high, stir to combine everything and bring to a boil.
Add pork ribs and five spice powder, stir and arrange the ribs evenly in the pan. Sprinkle black pepper on top. The liquid should be almost enough to cover the ribs.
If using the oven, put the pan in the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until ribs are tender and coated with the thickened sauce. Give it a stir every 15 minutes, and before finishing cooking 5-10 minutes, taste the ribs and the sauce and adjust seasonings to your liking.
Instead of putting the pan in the oven, you can simmer it on the stove top until ribs are tender and coated with the thickened sauce. Give it a stir every 15 minutes, and before finishing cooking 5-10 minutes, taste the ribs and the sauce and adjust seasonings to your liking.
Sprinkle more black pepper on top and serve hot with rice. You can garnish it with some chopped scallions, cilantro and/or toasted sesame seeds.